Artocarpus altilis or breadfruit is a flowering tree found growing all over Southeast Asia, southern India and nearly all islands in the Pacific Ocean. This species belongs to the mulberry family (Moraceae) and is also cultivated in the Windward Islands and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean as well as in Africa.
Breadfruit has got its name from the consistency of the cooked fairly ripe fruit that tastes like potato – something akin to bread that has been just baked.
Usually, breadfruit trees grow about 82 feet (25 meters) tall. The leaves of this tree are large and thick, cut deeply into pinnate lobes. All the parts of breadfruit tree yield a milky juice or latex, which is used for caulking boats.
Breadfruit has a green hue and on maturing the fruit oozes some sap that makes the fruit appear further yellowish when ripe. The texture of the fruit is starch-like, while its fragrance reminds one of freshly baked bread. Breadfruit is very nourishing and even its seeds can be consumed. When the breadfruit is completely ripe, it becomes soft and fragrant.
The flesh of the fruit is starchy and has a creamy yellow hue. The seeds are unevenly oval-shaped. In the center, the fruit has a cylindrical core, but no seeds. In the number of breadfruit species, the core is covered fully with hairs and contains little seeds. The sweetness as well as the fragrant of breadfruit vary from one type to another.
By nature, breadfruit trees are monoecious, which means both male and female flowers appear on the same tree. The male flowers of breadfruit tree bloom first and soon the female flowers appear. The female flowers grow into capitula and can pollinate within only three days of blooming.
The swollen perianth gives rise to a compound, false fruit, which has its origin in as many as 1,500 to 2,000 flowers. These minute flowers can be seen on the fruit’s skin. They appear in the form of hexagonal discs.
Ancient Polynesians discovered breadfruits growing in the wild in the northwestern region of New Guinea approximately 3,500 years back. Subsequently, the Polynesians discontinued cultivating rice, which they carried from Taiwan, and started growing breadfruit in all places they migrated to in the Pacific.
They were unable to grow this tree in New Zealand and Easter Island, as the climatic conditions in these places are extremely cold. On the other hand, the Indonesians, the ancient cousins of the Polynesians, spread the cultivation of breadfruit trees further west and north all through the insular as well as coastal regions of Southeast Asia. Breadfruit trees were extensively cultivated in various tropical regions in the ancient times too.
Fruit, seeds, latex.
Apart from consuming ripened fruit raw and the raw fruit as a vegetable, breadfruit is also used for therapeutic purposes. People in the Caribbean, especially in Trinidad and the Bahamas, prepare a decoction with the leaves of breadfruit tree and drink it to alleviate hypertension (high blood pressure). It is also believed that this decoction helps to provide relief from asthma.
The leaves of this tree are also crushed and the paste spread on the tongue to treat thrush. The juice extracted from breadfruit tree leaves is used in the form of an ear-drop. The dried leaves are burnt and the ash is applied on the skin to heal infections. Similarly, the leaves are roasted and the powder is used to treat enlarged spleen.
The fruit is also crushed and applied in the form of a poultice on tumors with a view to “ripen” them. The flowers of breadfruit tree are also roasted and massaged on the gums in the region of an aching tooth. The latex (milky white substance oozed by several parts of the tree) is employed to treat skin diseases. The latex is also used in bandages on the spine to alleviate sciatica pain. The latex is diluted by adding water and drunk to cure diarrhea.
Studies undertaken to determine the health benefits offered by breadfruit have proved that consuming this vegetable on a regular basis can considerably lessen the chances of developing diabetes and when people already suffering from this condition consume this vegetable, their blood sugar levels are kept under control. Breadfruit helps to regulate blood sugar levels by lessening the assimilation of sugar by the human body.
As the breadfruit contains elevated amounts of dietary fiber, it works excellently to boost one’s energy. Consumption of breadfruit gives the feeling of being full, but does not augment the intake of calories. Hence, people consuming breadfruit not only feel energetic, but also remain active.
In addition, breadfruit is also excellent for decreasing the risks of developing cholesterol problems and heart disorders. Several studies undertaken to assess the health benefits of breadfruit have demonstrated that it facilitates in reducing LDL cholesterol (also known as “bad” cholesterol), while increasing the levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol.
Apart from the nutrients mentioned above, breadfruit also encloses high levels of omega-3 fatty acids as well as omega-6 fatty acids; these two essential fatty acids make it an excellent food for the health of the heart.
At the same time, these fatty acids are also useful for the health of our skin and hair. Omega-3 fatty acid is especially good for the development of the mind and brain. According to experts, to a great degree, breadfruit consumption on a regular basis may facilitate the development of the brain.
Eating breadfruit on a regular basis also helps to ensure healthy bowel movement and also the functioning of the intestines. The dietary fiber content of breadfruit also facilitates stool passage and aids in eliminating toxins from the intestines.
Generally, breadfruit is believed to be a perfect and healthy diet. It is a very good food for people who are enduring overweight or are obese. It is highly beneficial for obese people because it not only contains very less calories, but lots of dietary fiber.
Moreover, the dietary fiber enclosed by breadfruit helps in several different ways and is effective for dealing with body fats as well as cellulites. In addition to the different health benefits offered by breadfruit, it is also good for the health of the skin.
This vegetable is loaded with plenty of omega-3 as well as omega-6 fatty acids, which are known to be wonderful for the skin’s health. Moreover, breadfruit also contains plenty of vitamin C, which is also excellent for the health of our skin.
Consuming breadfruit regularly helps to enhance the skin’s health both from within as well as outside. Findings of scientific studies undertaken recently have corroborated the fact that breadfruit contains valuable antioxidants that help to prevent skin rashes and infections.
Eating breadfruit regularly also helps to improve the skin tone. In fact, it has been established that consumption of breadfruit in sufficient amounts helps to ensure a smooth and glossy skin.
In fact, breadfruit is a wonderful resource of various different types of vitamins as well as essential minerals. This attribute of breadfruit makes it a healthy choice for people who are concerned regarding the health of their hair. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids present in breadfruit are responsible for the health benefits it offers to our hair follicles.
Precisely speaking, this particular vegetable is excellent for people desiring healthy and dense hair. Consuming breadfruit regularly helps to make the hair roots stronger and, at the same time, promotes hair growth. Breadfruit also helps to effectively put off hair disorders like dandruff. All said and done, breadfruit is a wonderful natural treatment for hair thinning.
Many people consume breadfruit after boiling or roasting the unripe fruit. When the semi-ripe fruit is baked, its texture as well as taste becomes akin to that of the usual wheat bread. Some people also use the unripe fruit to prepare flour or paste that can be effectively used in baking.
Often the breadfruit is used to prepare poi, which is basically a fermented fruit preparation, often made with taro. This fruit is also employed for making puddings. It is fried to make chips and candied to prepare snacks. Moreover, in some regions of the world, breadfruit is also used as animal fodder.
Similar to plantain and banana, the breadfruit can be consumed raw when ripe and in the form of a vegetable after cooking. To use breadfruit as a vegetable, the fruits should be collected when their texture is still starchy. After peeling the skin and removing the core, the flesh of breadfruit is boiled in the conventional method of people inhabiting the Pacific Islands.
Alternatively, the flesh of the fruit may also be roasted on pre-heated rocks or in any underground oven. Occasionally, people peel the skin, remove the core of the fruit and stuff it with coconut prior to roasting the whole fruit.
In Malaysia, people remove the firm ripened fruit, cut its pulp into smaller chunks and fry the slices in palm sugar or syrup till its turns crunchy and brown. On the other hand, Filipinos like to eat the ripened breadfruit with sugar and coconut.
Habitat and cultivation
Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is native to the equatorial lowlands and it flourishes when grown in places whose altitude is less than 650 meters (2,130 feet). However, in some places, breadfruit trees are found growing at altitudes of about 1,550 meters (5,090 feet).
This species prefers 1,500 mm to 3,000 mm rainfall annually. It has a liking for neutral to alkaline soils having pH between 6.1 and 7.4. However, breadfruit trees can also grow well in sand, loam, sandy loam and sandy clay loam. In addition, breadfruit trees also grow in coral sands as well as salty soils.
Breadfruit is of high nutritional value and it helps one to maintain the best possible health. Consumption of breadfruit helps the body to obtain plenty of nutrients and valuable calories. Breadfruit also encloses sufficient amounts of protein and water.
Side effects and cautions
Consumption of breadfruit seldom causes allergic reactions. Even there are no reports of people being intolerant to this fruit. Nevertheless, one should never consume unripe breadfruit raw, as it may result in choking the respiratory system. The unripe, green fruit should only be consumed after cooking.
Collection and harvesting
When ripe, breadfruits are collected manually. Appearance of little latex drops on the skin of the fruit is an indication that it has become mature. To harvest the fruit, harvesters mount the tree and sever the fruit’s stalk using a fork allowing it to drop to the ground.
While this may sometimes split the fruit or bruise it, this method of harvesting is preferred compared to catching it by hand, as the busted pedicels ooze plenty of latex. After harvesting, the fruits are set in cartons and each fruit is kept separated by dividers.